As the Miami Hurricanes continue to prepare for their season opener against UAB on September 10, the team returned to the field Saturday for their second scrimmage.
Here are my five takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage.
1 — Defense outshines offense
The offense produced big-time stats in last Sunday’s scrimmage that excited ‘Canes fans and left them picturing storylines. However, that wasn’t the case on Saturday.
Although four quarterbacks threw touchdowns, which was headlined by D’Eriq King’s 95 passing yards and two TD’s, coach Manny Diaz believes the QB outing was “ok, not as good as it was a week ago.”
In comparison, King completed 15-of-26 passes for 187 yards and four touchdowns in the first scrimmage.
It’s important to note that the information that comes from UM’s sports information department does not include how much a certain player played or if he took reps against the first, second or third team.
One thing that can be said is that the return of senior’s Quincy Roche Jonathan Ford, in addition to the recent domination from junior Jaelan Phillips has coach Diaz excited.
“Quincy and Jaelen were both very disruptive,” he stated. “Getting Jon Ford back, just a lot of guys creating havoc there in the backfield and creating some negative plays, which we had very few negative plays in the first scrimmage and it seemed like there are a lot more tonight.”
Diaz added that “defense really took it to the offense,” in the first half but the offense was able to bounce back in the second and move the ball well. But in general, the second-year head-coach was not ecstatic about his offense’s outing.
“Overall, though, it was much, much too sloppy of a scrimmage; much sloppier than the first scrimmage. It’s kind of a strange deal, way too many penalties on some things that we’re going to have to sternly address this week in practice.”
Instead, The defense stood out, forcing three turnovers, which included two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
2 — There’s plenty of depth at the safety position
With true freshman safety Avantae Williams out for season, the search began for who could fill in for him. And it was freshman Brian Balom who did it all for Miami’s secondary on Saturday.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder recorded a game-high seven tackles while also forcing a fumble and picking off a pass.
Balom, who was a consensus three-star recruit, was one of four safeties signed in the Class of 2020 — Williams, Jalen Harrell and Keshawn Washington.
He’s a potential redshirt candidate, but with Williams out, he’ll have a much better chance at being one of the freshman safety’s to get on the field early.
3 — Running backs continue to thrive in Rhett Lashlee’s spread offense
Last week it was Freshman Jaylan Knighton who posted eye-grabbing numbers. On Saturday, it was junior Cam’Ron Harris who made his presence felt.
Harris rushed for a scrimmage-high 77 yards and a touchdown in 13 carries. He also showed off his pass-catching ability, scoring two receiving touchdowns.
“Cam was fantastic. … Really set the tone with the first touchdown in the first half,” Diaz said. “He caught a ball in the flat about eight yards from the end zone and had three guys that really had to get him on the ground and he ran through all three tackles for a touchdown.
Very impressive to see that Cam is making an older-guy type play.”
Knighton, who rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the first scrimmage, garnered 43 yards and a score on 12 carries. Don Chaney Jr. also added eight carries for 48 yards and a touchdown.
As it stands, Knighton leads all running backs with 169 total rushing yards with Chaney trailing with 105.
“They got better, the freshmen running backs, as the scrimmage went on,” Diaz said. “I think after their big plays a week ago sometimes you have a tendency to want to hit a grand slam with no one on base. I felt that early on they were trying to bounce things that weren’t there.
I think once they started trusting their cuts and just sticking to becoming north-south runners, once they cleared that front line now they can use their explosion, but early on, they were running into trouble by trying to make every play a touchdown.”
4 — Freshman Xavier Restrepo has another dominant performance
True freshman Xavier Restrepo put on another great outing, registering five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Restrepo’s 79 receiving yards were the most in the entire scrimmage. He was just as dominant last week, posting two catches for 54 yards while also taking a 60-yard run to the house.
The 5-foot-10, 196-pounder leads all receivers in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (133). His strong performances during fall camp will likely make him the Hurricanes’ backup slot receiver to Mike Harley.
5 — Miami has four tight ends that can produce
After missing the first scrimmage, tight end Brevin Jordan returned on Saturday. It’s still unknown how many receiving yards he tallied, but he did post four receptions.
The main focus with Jordan will be assuring that he’s healthy and ready to play in Week 1.
Aside from Jordan, Miami’s other tight ends have been very effective. Redshirt freshman Larry Hodges, who didn’t record any stats last week, totaled 45 receiving yards and a touchdown on Saturday.
Last week, junior Will Mallory had four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown and freshman Dominic Mammarelli caught two passes for 41 yards.
6 — Still more work to do
Just 18 days away from the opener against UAB, coach Diaz wants to assure that his team learns from their errors and gets better in practice this week.
“We have a big week this week. We have to extend our drives better, especially in this heat. We need a hot week of practice and we have to continue to push our guys and make things really hard on them and find out who we can count on to compete against UAB.”
The Blazers will come into Hard Rock Stadium on September 10 with a game versus Central Arkansas. That means UAB will have a week of real-game experience and the ability to shake off rust before taking on Miami.
On a good note, a full four quarters of film on the Blazers will certainly work to coach Diaz’s advantage.